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Avello Publishing Journal Vol. 1, No. 1.

2011
Editor: Jason Wakefield
Review: The Heidegger Change: On the Fantastic in Philosophy Catherine Malabou tr. & ed. Peter
Skafish. New York: State University Press 2011.

This is a new English translation of one of the legendary Jacques Derrida's former collaborators
Catherine Malabou. Initially published in French in 2004, in the year of Derrida's death, Skafish
has now provided the Anglo American thinking audience with a new English translation for 2011.
To put this text in to its recent literary context, Malabou collaborated with Derrida on Counterpath:
Travelling with Jacques Derrida1 which was translated into English in 2004. This collaboration
contains a reproduction / manuscript of a letter written in pen (dated 10th May 1997) held in the
Jacques Derrida Archives; thus we can think of the new translation of The Heidegger Change: On
the Fantastic in Philosophy as a posthumous letter to Derrida in memorandum. This is not to detract
from the singular brilliance of Malabou as a distinct and formidable thinker in her own right. The
dual hybridisation of French thought has frequented academia as a concrete and penetrating
approach to philosophical and psychoanalytical interrogation since the collaborations of Deleuze
and Guattari. Since Derrida has passed away, Malabou has found new, eminent collaborators such
as Crockett on Plasticity and the Future of Philosophy and Theology (2010) but it is in her singleauthored texts where her stylistic genius shines through such as The Future of Hegel: Plasticity,
Temporality and Dialectic (2005) and the present book of this review.
A close reading of these aforementioned texts will help orientate a preliminary conceptual
understanding of the first chapter Wandel, Wandlung, and Verwandlung (W, W & V). These three
German terms approximately correspond to change, transformation, and metamorphosis. There is a
distinct Derridean flavour to how Malabou reads these (post- Being and Time) Heideggerian terms,

1 Translation by David Wills.

as later in the text, conceptual frameworks of Derrida -esque preoccupations such as difference and
the gift appear articulated utilising these Heideggerian terminologies. The fluidity and plasticity of
these terminologies can be traced back to Heidegger's Hegel's Phnomenologie des Geistes and
Hegel's Phnomenologie des Geistes itself:

Er ist an sich die


Bewegung, die das Erkennen ist, - die
Verwandlung jenes An-sichs in das Frsich,
der Substanz in das Subjekt, des
Gegenstands des Bewutseins in
Gegenstand des Selbstbewutseins, d.h. in
ebensosehr aufgehobnen Gegenstand, oder
in den Begriff. Sie ist der in sich
zurckgehende Kreis, der seinen Anfang
voraussetzt und ihn nur im Ende erreicht. (Hegel 1870: 802)
For Hegel, it is very clear, that eternal truths which are inwardly revealed, have a spiritual
substance which is coming-to-be, towards what the substance is in itself. To clarify, this coming-tobe is a movement of cognition the transformation of what Hegel describes as in-itself into foritself . The transformation, is the object of consciousness returning full circle back into itself. When
this substance becomes itself in its totality, as world-spirit, it has its consummation as a selfconscious spirit. For Hegel, this is a religious expression and metamorphosis of spirit which always
occurs a priori to any scientific analysis of spirit, however concedes that it is perhaps only science
alone which can contain spirit's true epistemology of itself.
It is on this Hegelian note that one has to disagree with the translators / editor's prefatory
comments on Heidegger's triad of Wandel, Wandlung, and Verwandlung. According to Skafish
'Malabou even characterizes the triad as textual pulp, left over philosophical matter so unrefined
that even careful, independent readers (when they have noticed them) are unable to connect it to the
major problems of his work.' (Malabou 2011: xiv). A careful reading of Phnomenologie des
Geistes would perhaps suggest otherwise, as we see clearly spirit change from its state in-itself to a
state for-itself. Heidegger's variation of this metamorphosis is as follows: 'science allows absolute
2

knowledge (the absolute itself) to come out in its becoming-other-than-itself, in which it returns to
itself' (Heidegger 1980: 27). To clarify, appearance is mirrored exactly with essence and
consciousness becomes one with its own essence. This movement is one of change and
transformation, where spirit becomes absolute knowledge. This metamorphosis removes and
eliminates the mere illusions obscuring spirit, allowing spirit to be elevated through a process of
sublating or Aufhebung. This elevation is necessary to purify spirit so that it has absolute, scientific
knowledge of itself. According to Heidegger, this should not be misinterpreted as a movement
towards absolute knowledge through a phenomenology of consciousness as Husserl understands the
transformation. In addition to Heidegger's exposition about the misinterpretations of
Phnomenologie des Geistes, one would like to add Heidegger himself to the scholarly
misinterpretations of the text. Heidegger pays meticulous attention to consciousness in three
masterful ways:

By taking a careful and pedagogical approach to sense certainty in terms of being-in-andfor-itself.


Analysing perception as a transition from sense certainty to understanding.
Utilising science as a systematic experience of consciousness.

What Heidegger misunderstands is the importance of the transition from consciousness to selfconsciousness. He does not give this transition the extended argumentation he does for dissecting
Hegelian consciousness in the early chapters. Spirit as is perhaps one of the most important
hinges of Hegelian phenomenal science, as many important aspects of this scientific thought had all
ready been structured in some of Heraclitus' Fragments. He also marginalises the importance of
self-consciousness as the truth of consciousness, preferring to conclude Hegel's Phnomenologie
des Geistes with his own existential-ontological project of temporality as the horizon of Dasein.

Heidegger is also guilty of this in Sein und Zeit, where he distorts Hegel's phrase in Die Vernunft in
der Geschichte 'Also fllt die Entwicklung der Geschichte in die Zeit'. In a footnote to a 1962
English translation, Macquarrie and Robinson dismiss the few minor liberties Heidegger takes with
this particular Hegelian text as 'too trivial for any special comment.' One would have to disagree, in
the wider context of this specific chapter, Heidegger forces Hegel's conception of spirit (falling into
time) away from Hegelian historicism, into his own conception of time as intuited becoming in an
unthinking transition of sequential nows.
These Hegelian texts are in wide circulation and are translated into several different languages.
Heidegger's triad of Wandel, Wandlung, and Verwandlung are consistently evoked through out these
texts and are in common usage in the dialogue amongst both Heideggerian and Hegelian scholars
alike. Skafish misses this, but Malabou eloquently engages with some of these problematics,
particularly with regards to ideas encapsulating exchange and migration. Indeed, exchange and
migration are two of the concepts which feature most heavily in the book's index rerum. This is
articulated through the book in terms of processing Heidegger's thought with migratorymetamorphic metaphysical speculations, ontological exchanges and its Kafka-esque
modifications. Much of this ontico ontological transformability is Kafka esque, if we read
Heidegger in a Deleuzo Guattarian framework, as one does in the application of their
Kafka, Toward a Minor Literature. Indeed, Heidegger himself, in a letter dated June 27th, 1950
to Arendt stated: 'The Kafka volumes have arrived. Thank you so much for this great gift.' This has
a double layer of meaning in the overall context of The Heidegger Change: On the Fantastic in
Philosophy. The first in terms of understanding Kafka as an important tool and guide to reading
Sein und Zeit, the other as the role of Derridean modification in how the gift is changed in Time and
Being. What fuses together this dichotomy is very original and can only be credited to Malabou
herself. We find elements of her Derridean instruction, with its mutated Heideggerian core effacing
itself, but nonetheless Malabou changes the route of how we see the difference between differing

and changing. She clarifies, that the history of metaphysics, is the history of the exchange. This
deviates from Derrida, who articulates the history of metaphysics as the history of diffrence in an
argument against Husserl's phenomenology. 2 Here Malabou's voice is distinct apart from Derrida's
as she explores what Hlderlin calls in his poem Der Ister 'the changing' [der Wandelnde]. There is
an extensive amount of correspondence that has survived between Hlderlin and Hegel, thus it may
be useful to see change here as one along the lines of Hlderlin's letter to Hegel dated July 10th
1794: 'I am certain that you have occasionally thought of me since we parted from one another with
the watchword Reich Gottes! I believe that we should recognize each other throughout every
metamorphosis of this watchword.' The correspondence here explicitly underscores the importance
of metamorphic recognition. The poet makes it clear to the philosopher that they should recognise
each other through out every metamorphosis of the watch word. 'Being may love self-concealing, as
Heraclitus once thought, but its revelation can sometimes be done by the novelist, poet or
playwright also' (Wakefield 2011: 9). A metamorphic conversion occurs here between, in
Nietzschean terms, Apollonian science, as found in Hegelian phenomenology and Dionysian
poesy, as one finds in Hlderlin's hymns. Rather than the arts and science being opposed to

another, we have a metamorphosis and change from one to the other and vice versa. This sublime
metamorphosis is one Derrida recognised in Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche's will to power as art:

Au titre de la connotation ou de l'accompagnement, je tappelle trois mises en garde de


Heidegger. Elles me paraissent urgentes, et ne valent pas seuletment pour hier. Mise en
garde contre le confusionnisme esthtisant, avengle l'art autant qu' la philosophie, et qui
voidrait nous faire conclure de telles propositions nietzschennes htivement dchiffres que
l're du philosophe artiste tant dsormais ouverte, la rigueur du concept portain se
montter moins intraitable. (Derrida 1978: 72)
Heidegger's warning here is a counter-argument to Hlderlin's request to Hegel, urging us to avoid
an aestheticizing confusion as to what Nietzsche's age of the philosopher artist would entail.
Heidegger disapproves of mistaking a heroic / boastful grand style, as Nietzsche accuses Wagnerian

2 See Derrida's Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of Signs.

philistines of adorning, with passive aesthetic consumerism. Heidegger's stretches this thought
further, exposing a feminine aesthetic (eine Weibs sthetik) formulating what is beautiful within
this consumerism, Beneath this, echoes of Hegel's analysis of the passivity of clitoral pleasure
resound. Malabou flips both Heidegger's warning and Hegel's analysis upside down, selfmetamorphosis and migration are rigorously conceptualised regardless of any aesthetic intervention
through the literature of Kafka. There is no grand style but it retains a beauty in its shape. Hegel's
Aesthetics is peppered with the words plastisch and Plastik; one can follow this terminology and
define The Heidegger Change: On the Fantastic in Philosophy as a plastic art par excellence.
Malabou sculpts Heidegger without paralysing his thought into an immobile apparatus. Yet there is
a paradigmatic paradox inherent here, as this flowing, Heraclitean movement has a rigidity in its
structure: 'the occlusion of the metabolic origin of metaphysics decides the metamorphic and
migratory structure of metaphysics' (Malabou 2011: 32). The history of metaphysical speculation,
and its appearance, is one that is continually transformed through a process that 'sews and tears the
very same tissue' (Malabou 2011: 33). This relates directly to Hegel when spirit reaches its
culmination, like Zarathustra's silhouette, through appearing to itself, abruptly ending any
migration.
In conclusion, this book has several fascinating chapters, configured over approximately three
hundred pages. Topics such as truth, Gestalt and essence are given consistent analysis; whilst
literary figures such as Plato, Ovid and Agamben make notable incisions. The new translation is
well edited, making the new incarnation more accessible to the Anglo American reader of
Heidegger. At first glance, one could easily mistake the book for a pedantic exploration of the
fantastic and cineplastic in Heidegger's thought, but it is written with a quick tempo and covers a
breadth of themes. My recommendation is that this text is read in tandem with reading the work of
Empedocles, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras and Anaximander to highlight the reduction of the metabolic
to the phoronomic in the shift from Greek to modern thought on change. We should not forget that

despite the philosophical mastery of Heidegger regarding change, eminent scholars such as
Habermas remind us that Heidegger was politically inept and was in favour of National Socialism
including Hitler's accession to power. My recommendation is that this book should be purchased
alongside some of the fascinating material that is appearing in the Columbia University Press series
Inserructions: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics and Culture co -edited by Jeff Robbins.

Bibliography
Agamben, Giorgio. Means Without End: Notes on Politics tr. Binetti, Vicenzo. & Casarino, Cesare.
University of Minneapolis Press. 2000.
Derrida, Jacques. 1978. perons: Les Styles de Nietzsche. Paris: Flammarion.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. 1807. Phnomenologie des Geistes (The Phenomenology of
Spirit). Bamberg & Wrzburg: Joseph Anton Goebhardt.
Heidegger, Martin. Gesamtausgabe. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann. 19
75 Heidegger, Martin. 1980 Hegel's Phnomenologie des Geistes (Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit) tr.
Emad, P. & Emaly, K. Indiana University Press.

Hlderlin, Friedrich. Smtliche Werke. Bd. 6: Briefe, hrsg. v. Adolf Beck. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer
Verlag. 1969.

Kafka, F. The Metamorphosis New York: Modern Library. 1952.

Malabou, Catherine. The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality and Dialectic. tr. During, Lisbeth.
London: Routledge. 2005.

Wakefield, Jason. Samuel Beckett and Alain Badiou's Fine Armour of Axioms. The Dasein Project;
Philosophy, Art & Culture Journal. 2011. http://daseinproject.com/samuel-beckett-and-alainbadious-fine-armour-of-axioms/